Book Review: Year of the Hawk by James A. Warren (2021)

Synopsis: This non-fiction book tells the story about the United States' involvement in Vietnam, with an emphasis on "The Year of the Hawk," 1965. The book includes explanations about the country's history and political and military decisions that resulted in one of America's biggest military failures.

Review: I hadn't planned on checking out a non-fiction book when I was at the library last week. However, I saw this book in the "new book" section and, after glancing at it, decided to give it a try. Overall, I have to say I enjoyed reading it.

I think one of the hardest things about writing about a conflict like Vietnam is finding a way to balance the truth about what happened with the desire not to insult the military personnel who fought and/or died in that conflict. Being the son of a Vietnam veteran, I was concerned the book wouldn't be able to find that balance but, after reading it, I think the author did just that.

I personally enjoyed how the book gave a fairly detailed summary of Vietnam's long history of overcoming foreign armies and using that in context with what happened when the United States sent its military there. It made it easier to understand how a larger and better-equipped army could be outmatched by its "weaker" opponent and how attempts to gain allies by offering to modernize the country backfired.

Even the descriptions of failed battles were done tastefully, with the failures being pinned on things like poor communication, impatience and poor overall strategy rather than anything that placed the blame on those who were fighting the battles. As the body counts grew, it was easy to see why the war was an unpopular one.

Another thing I found interesting was how the author argued our involvement in Vietnam was the result of flawed Cold War logic that assumed the communist leaders in Vietnam were in a close alliance with other communist countries, when today's evidence doesn't show that. It made the war seem even more illogical but, at the same time, it was easy to understand why political leaders (who likely didn't know this information at the time) were so willing to commit to defending the country despite being told it was an impossible undertaking.

Final Opinion: It's an interesting book with a great deal of details about the conflict and some solid arguments about why the United States should never have gotten involved. It's worth taking the time to read if you have a chance.

My Grade: A


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